Category Archives: Christian Life

MOLLY AND ME – AGING?

It’s inevitable! Molly and I are aging!

Molly came into my life nearly eight years ago, a tiny, strawberry dapple ‘worsie’ hardly bigger than my foot. She was inquisitive, bouncy, and full of mishief. The leader of my pack, a Yorkie, did the mischief and Molly joyfully joined in.

Molly is a “velcro” dog. The closer she can get to a warm body, the happier she is. Tosca would get annoyed with her because Molly liked to sleep on Tosca’s back!

I should rather say, Molly is not aging. She is maturing. Her ever-increasingly white muzzle and paws speak of age but her maturity peeps out in her behaviour…

…For example, she loves to stretch out on my recliner and watch me prepare meals. I have taught her to move to the back of the chair when it’s time for me to sit down. Now she spontaneously wriggles her long little body backwards until she flush with the chair back! So cute!

I often wonder how much dogs can reason. When Molly has the urge to go outside when it’s raining or when she can’t get out, she does her business in my bathroom as close to the toilet as possible. How is that for consideration! At least I don’t have to tour the garden to clean up her waste.

As I said, Molly loves closeness…and equality. She believes she has a right to eat what I eat. Not always good for her. She also sleeps where I sleep. She starts the night under the blankets, especially when it’s cold. However, when I wake up, she’s sleeping with her head on the pillow next to me! How is that for equality!

Her latest habit is to wake me in the night. She used to wake me for toilet purposes but now she wakes me just to say “Hello, are you awake?” She tugs on the blankets, bumps me with her nose, or wriggles around until I show her I’m awake. After reassuring me that she doesn’t need to go outside, she lies on my arm, gazing at me with adoring brown eyes. Then we go to sleep again, assured of our love for each other.

I wonder if Molly knows that the older we grow, the closer we get to having to part! It’s a sad thought, so I make the best of every moment we have together. When I go out, I settle her in her bed, cover her with our favourite red blankie, and comfort her with treats. Homecoming is always a joyful reunion.

How much the Father has taught me through my years with this little dog. The older we grow, the closer we become. It’s like this with God too. I often spend time simply loving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, trying to imagine what heaven will be like in the eternal presence of God. Sometimes, He wakes me in the night, for no other reason than to give me time to think about Him.

I love His presence when I go shopping, or make crocheted toys, or prepare meals. My Helper is always there to guide and advise me and to help me make the right decisions. He’s always thinking about me, more thoughts than all the grains of sand on the planet.

Psalms 139:17-18 NLT
[17] How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! [18] I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”

Even if I don’t listen, He is still there. And when I wake up?

Psalms 139:17-18 NLT
[17] “… And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

What thoughts does God have about me?

Psalms 139:5, 9-10 NLT
[5] You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head….
[9] If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, [10] even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.

Good, blessing, favour!

So, thank you, little Molly, for all the life lessons I have learned through my partnership with you. You have carved out a tender spot in my heart that belongs to you and you alone. We both belong to God because He made us and He gave you to me to care for, for Him.

We have no idea how many days we have left together. When I go to my place or when you go to your place, together or apart, we will have good memories of precious times and all the love that glued us to each other here on earth.

HE HEALS THE BROKEN-HEARTED

Psalms 147:3 NLT
[3] “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”

I love to watch the video clips on my phone of a group of men who rescue seals entangled in discarded fishing gear. (If only these people who carelessly ditch their useless lines and nets into the sea, could just catch a glimpse of what their thoughtlessness does to our valuable sea creatures.)

These dedicated men sacrifice hours on the beach at Pelican Point in Namibia, scanning the area for entangled seals. They spend time and energy netting the victims and carefully cutting them free from their painful imprisonment. Some seals are close to death because they are being suffocated or unable to feed. Lines, ropes, and nets indiscriminately inhibit their freedom.

Sometimes seals have deep
wounds cut into their flesh. To release them causes severe pain, but they are often patient while their rescuers probe the wounds to find the strands that cause so much damage.

Imagine the joy of freedom that drives them into the healing water of the ocean where they can frolic and feed without hindrance.

How like our own experiences in life! Who is not wounded by the thoughtless deeds and words of others? How many of us carry the damage deep in our hearts for years, unable to free ourselves from the hurt others have inflicted on us.

We compound the damage by our own toxic attitudes and reactions. So, the wounds fester and grow, fed by our bitterness and self-pity.

I have also observed and experienced how God works, sometimes over many years, to cut the cords of pain and hurt, and free the sufferer from the entanglement. He heals the wounds in the ocean of His love, leaving only scars that remind the sufferer of His grace that rescued and healed all the emotional wounds.

There is no longer any pain to remind the sufferer of his agonising years. Unanswered questions are no longer important. He can look at the person or persons who caused the wounds with complete indifference, feeling none of the anger and resentment that once captured his mind and emotions.

Truly, there is only one who can rescue us so completely that even the memories no longer hurt.

If we trust ourselves to the love of the Father and patiently wait for His work to be done in us, He will sever the cords that bind us to the hurt. He will heal the wounds that others have caused. He will cleanse our hearts from all unrighteous thoughts and attitudes that embittered us. He will turn our memories into memorabilia that only remind us of events, not emotions.

Psalms 55:22 NLT
[22] “Give (Hebrew -” throw down” or “fling”) your burdens (Hebrew – “that which Providence has given you”) to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Sometimes, the things we hate in life are God’s way of allowing us to experience His grace. Without the pain we have suffered, we can never know the joy of release and freedom. We may not fully understand the purpose of suffering but, if we are willing to receive it as grace gift-wrapped in pain, hardship, trials and tests, we can learn to celebrate our hardships because our weaknesses qualify us to receive His strength.

THE BATTLE SONG OF ISRAEL

There is a recurring refrain in Scripture that was Israel’s national anthem, war cry, and battle song. For example, when the kingdom of Judah went into battle under King Jehoshaphat’s command, against an amassed army from surrounding nations, assured of victory…

2 Chronicles 20:13-15 NLT
[13] “As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, [14] the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph. [15] He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

So, … they sang this song as they went into battle…

2 Chronicles 20:21 NLT

“Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”

What is the significance of this confession?

The words ‘faithful love’ are an attempt to translate the untranslateable Hebrew word, ‘chesed’. This ‘chesed’ of God is an attribute that enshrines everything He is in His legally-binding covenant commitment to His people.

“In the Hebrew Bible, the word “hesed” (also spelled “chesed” or “ḥesed”) is a significant term that is often translated as “steadfast love,” “lovingkindness,” “mercy,” or “faithful love,” among other similar expressions. It represents a unique concept that combines elements of love, kindness, loyalty, and faithfulness.

“Hesed is used to describe the covenantal relationship between God and His people, emphasizing God’s enduring faithfulness, mercy, and lovingkindness towards them. It is a quality that embodies loyalty, devotion, and compassion, often demonstrated through acts of kindness, grace, and generosity.

“The term is not easily captured by a single English word, as it encompasses a range of positive attributes that reflect God’s character and his relationship with humanity. Hesed is seen as a fundamental aspect of God’s nature and is often used to describe how God interacts with His people, showing mercy, forgiveness, and compassion even when they do not deserve it.

“Overall, hesed is a rich and multifaceted concept in the Hebrew Bible that conveys the depth of God’s love and faithfulness towards His people, highlighting the importance of kindness, mercy, and loyalty in relationships.”
(quote captured from the app, “Quora”, answering the question, “What is the real meaning of the Hebrew word ‘hesed’ in the Bible?”)

The ancient word picture of chesed, I am told, is that of a mother swan. Before she lays her eggs, she plucks the softest down feathers from her breast to line the nest for her young.

This is a reminder of God’s tender love for His people.

The simplest meaning of chesed is ‘to bend down’, the picture of a stork with a bent neck. Enshrined in these pictures are some of the shades of meaning expressed in the above quote which highlight His faithfulness to His people in a covenant relationship. He bends down to minister to His people whatever they need because of His everlasting love.

The Greek word, ‘agape’, is the counterpart of this love in the New Testament.

There is a phrase omitted from this song, quoted in Psalm 118.

Psalms 118:1 NLT
[1] “Give thanks to the Lord, FOR HE IS GOOD! His faithful love endures forever.”

This psalm, (118), tells of the psalmist’s victory over his enemies because of God’s ‘chesed’. He calls on all his fellow Israelites to celebrate ‘chesed’ with him because God is good.

A quote from Jeff Benner throws more light on God’s goodness.

“Very few sermons in our Western synagogues and churches would include the passage “I [God] form the light and create darkness, I make peace and I create evil, I am the LORD who does all of these” (Isaiah 45:7) as our Western mind sees these two forces as opposing opposites. However, the Eastern mind sees them both as equals and necessary for perfect balance. In the Western mind, God is only good and therefore unable to create evil. The Eastern mind sees God as a perfect balance of all things including good (tov in Hebrew, Strong’s #2896) and evil (ra in Hebrew, Strong’s #7451)…

“To understand the words “good” and “bad” from a more Hebraic understanding, these words should be understood as “functional” and “dysfunctional”. God is both functional (such as seen in the Creation Story of Genesis one) as well as dysfunctional (such as seen with the destruction of the flood).”
(Jeff Benner, article “Good and Bad”, Ancient Hebrew Research Centre, Hebrew Word Studies)

God’s goodness is expressed in another of His supurb attributes, His wisdom, which reveals that everything God does, good or bad, is in the end, ‘functional’.

When we declare that God is good, we are expressing our confidence in His wisdom, that which always works. Even if things seem to be bad, He promises that it will work out FOR us because He is at work IN us for our functionality.

In our worship of God on our journey from independence to dependence, from self-rule to submission to God’s authority, from discontent to peace, how can we measure our progress?

I think one word shows us how far we have come…gratitude!

Many times, after Paul’s explanation of what God has done for us in the New Covenant, he urges his readers to be thankful. He himself learned to celebrate his weakness in his struggles and hardships as God’s way of delivering him from pride.

2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV
[10] “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Gratitude shifts the focus from self to God, loosens our grip on present circumstances, and willingly looks beyond now with its needs, wants and demands to the bigger picture.
Gratitude begins to recognise God’s hand in the trials and tests we encounter. Gratitude displaces discontent as the core attitude of
our hearts despite adversity.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT
[18] “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

A grateful attitude “in all circumstances” is what God desires so that our trust in Him circumvents mistrust and discontent, and chooses to rest in all that He is.

Can you see, then, how we can trace the growth of our faith by our response to our circumstances. A grateful heart in everything reveals a trust in the Father’s love that is willing to wait until God has finished what He started. Gratitude rests in the `chesed’ of God, His goodness, that cannot and will not fail or fall short of its promise.

To declare sincerely, as an expression of worship,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His unfailing love endures forever”…

… Is committing ourselves to a God who is functional and dependable, who will aways work in us and for us what is perfectly in line with His unfailing love and goodness.

THE ORCHID, MY TEACHER

Orchids are unique tropical rainforest plants, growing in wild profusion on and under the protection of trees. They can adapt and grow, but very slowly, as proud house plants, given the correct environment, treatment, and care.

I know, because I have killed a few through my own ‘wisdom’ and mismanagement. When my umpteenth orchid looked like it was also on the way out, I decided to seek expert help from YouTube. After doing the right thing, to my amazement and joy, my only dying plant began to show signs of life again. Two new roots emerged from the rootless stem, new leaves grew and my orchid bloomed again.

Unfortunately, in the meantime, another birthday gift died which, in my ignorance I discarded, not knowing the resurrection power of this marvellous beauty.

My success at rejuvenating my last hope awakened in me a love for orchids and a desire to be an orchid ICU. From this experience, and the wisdom of experts, I now have five orchids, growing in water, their native environment, four with new flower spikes and one showing signs of new plant growth under its topmost leaf.

Cultivating orchids has taught me much about the Christian life. I have a friend who gave up on her orchids because they “grow too slowly”, she said. She likes plants that grow, bloom, and die in one season.

Like believers in Jesus, orchids must first develop a strong and vigorous root system. Their growing medium profoundly influences their production of roots. If they are planted in a medium too dense to aerate the roots, they will die. Too much water rots the roots, too little causes them to dehydrate and shrivel up, inhibiting them from taking in the moisture and nutrients that will sustain them and promote healthy leaf growth.

Believers also need a strong, healthy root system. We cannot expect baby believers to produce the fruit of maturity without roots. Rootless believers soon die. The toxic world around them neutralises their faith in God when trials and tests come. They need to be taught, fed, and nurtured to become established in their faith.

How and where do we grow our roots?

Like the orchid, we need spiritual air, moisture, and nutrients. We get these from the growing medium in which we are planted, God’s Word. This is not about our physical environment or circumstances, but rather about the air and environment in which our spirits can grow and flourish.

New ‘babies’ in Christ need to learn to live in the ‘atmosphere’ of the Holy Spirit. They need to know that He is in them, like a mother, providing everything they need for healthy growth. He is their ‘Paracletos’… their Helper, Guide, Teacher, and Counsellor.

They need to learn how to ‘walk’ by the Spirit…

‭Galatians 5:16a NLT‬
[16] “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives…”

… and be led by the Spirit…

‭Romans 8:14 NLT‬
[14] “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”

…to avoid and overcome the spiritual diseases that threaten their lives.

Galarians 5:16b NLT
“…Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”

Learning to live in the atmosphere of the Holy Spirit in the growth medium of the Word is a long, slow, ongoing, lifetime experience. Like the orchid, we need, constantly, to live in this ‘air of heaven’ to promote healthy growth.

Root growth needs a growing medium that is loose enough to aerate, yet strong enough to support the plant and of material that will hold moisture and nutrients without rotting the roots. Either pine bark or moss are the materials of choice. Growing them in water is a whole new ballgame.

Believers also need to grow their roots in the appropriate medium. What are our roots and where do they grow?

Matthew 4:4 NLT
[4] “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

We derive the nutrients that feed our spirits from the Word of God.

‭Colossians 2:6-7 NLT‬
[6] “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. [7] Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Very simply, our roots are faith, and our growing medium is God’s love revealed in Jesus, and the process is growing trust so strong that nothing can shift the believer from confidence in God’s love.

‭John 15:9-10 NLT‬
[9] “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. [10] When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

‭John 15:5 NLT‬
[5] “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

‭Ephesians 3:16-17 NLT‬
[16″I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. [17] Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

He is our ‘bread from heaven’ and our ‘fountain of living water’. We will keep growing as we ‘eat and drink’ from His life on earth and His life in us as we feed on His Word.

‭John 6:33, 35 NLT‬
[33] “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”..
[35] Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

‭John 7:37-38 NLT‬
[37]” On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! [38] Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

‭John 4:13-14 NLT‬
[13] “Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. [14] But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

With a strong, healthy root system, the orchid begins to grow the leaves that gather sunlight to mature the plant. The fully-developed orchid will eventually produce beautiful blooms that reveal its nature, a fragment of creation that brings glory to its Creator.

And so with every believer who faithfully follows the procedure that will glorify the Lord by producing the blooms and fruit which reveal the nature of who we are. Strong, healthy roots are the key to the cultivation of a mature, fruitful life in Christ Jesus.

GOD TICKS ALL HIS BOXES

Ephesians 1:11 NLT‬
[11]”Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes EVERYTHING work out ACCORDING to his PLAN.”

God’s story is fascinating! Written over millenia by many different authors, only God could have pre-wriiten His book and then made a living ‘movie’ of the script which follows the book to the letter.

Since God is omniscient, He saw the whole of history played out before it happened. So, through visions, dreams, and prophetic insights, He could tell His chosen prophets what would happen, in detail, before it happened, to forewarn and prepare them for coming events. Through prophecy and its fulfillment, He could also provide evidence that He is God by being able, accurately, to foretell the future.

Not only does He know how, when, and where history would unfold, but He can also guide people and events to do His will as He has decreed.

So, this means that He has the wisdom and power to tick all His boxes as they happen. This also means that God is never taken by surprise or out of options when stuff happens.

Isaiah’s prophecies, especially from chapter 40 onwards, give us many assurances of God’s foreknowledge and divine plans.

‭Isaiah 41:25-26 NLT‬
[25] “But I have stirred up a leader who will approach from the north. From the east he will call on my name. I will give him victory over kings and princes. He will trample them as a potter treads on clay. [26] “Who told you from the beginning that this would happen? Who predicted this, making you admit that he was right? No one said a word!”

‭Isaiah 42:8-9 NLT‬
[8] “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols. [9] Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens.”

‭Isaiah 43:9, 11-12 NLT‬
[9] “Gather the nations together! Assemble the peoples of the world! Which of their idols has ever foretold such things? Which can predict what will happen tomorrow? Where are the witnesses of such predictions? Who can verify that they spoke the truth?…
[11] I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. [12] First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord.”

So, we can go on through the book of Isaiah, chapter after chapter assuring the reader of God’s foreknowledge and control of history, matching history perfectly with the script.

What can we derive from these observations?

God’s Word is true.

We have the amazing witness of prophecy that reveals God’s wisdom and power to us. God ticks every box in His unfolding story, not one detail missing or out of place.

God’s word is trustworthy.

Scripture give us enough evidence of its trustworthiness from its records of the past that we can equally trust its predictions of the future and its promises for now and forever.

God has written the story of nations and individuals.

David wrote, with great confidence, about himself.

‭Psalms 139:16 NLT‬
[16] “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

Just as every detail of history is planned and executed to the letter, so it is with every person on earth. Before their birth and after their death, all is planned and done.

‭Revelation 20:11-13 NLT‬
[11]”And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. [12] I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. [13] The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds.”

God’s word is practical.

‭John 8:31-32 NLT‬
[31]”Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. [32] And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The Bible is not a book of theories or theology. It’s a book of life, teaching and guiding us in God’s way.

He has set out His instructions for living through the lives and witness who wrote it down for those who followed them. Their experiences helped them to understand God’s ways so that they could urge others to follow them.

‭1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT‬
[1] “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”

‭Psalms 119:105 NLT‬
[105]” Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

God’s word is powerful.

‭Jeremiah 23:29 NLT‬
[29] “Does not my word burn like fire?” says the Lord. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces?”

‭Hebrews 4:12 NLT‬
[12] “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

No other book has the power, not only to expose but also to change the heart and destiny of all who believe it.

‭1 Peter 1:23 NLT‬
[23]” For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.”

God’s word created and sustains everything.

‭Psalms 33:6 NLT‬
[6] “The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.”

‭Hebrews 1:2-3 NLT‬
[2] “And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. [3] The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

So, dear brothers and sisters, ought we not to treasure, read and obey this Word? Through it, we are assured that God will tick our tiny boxes among all the boxes He is working on to complete His story.